Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are being forced to adjust to all-digital workstyles. With shutdowns all over the world, the threat of lost business looms large, what with customers, suppliers, and clients being affected.
But it is the shift to an all-digital workstyle that has certain consequences for brands and their digital reputations. Sure, a digital presence can bring significant benefits to your company. But tons of negative reviews criticizing your operations or handling of crises such as the ongoing pandemic certainly won't.As all discerning PR officers know, a good public relations campaign is founded on reputation management. A step in the right direction is the effective use of your brand's internal and external digital PR communications. Here's how you can safeguard and even enhance your reputation, lockdowns or not:
- Set ground rules
With office employees having been thrust into remote work, most might find themselves using their personal devices for business communications. Given these conditions, it is easy to go easy on digital security and social media activity, among other communications. This is not the time to be lax, however.
Instead, ensure you set out your expectations about which members of your staff are allowed to use social media platforms for business. Be clear on who is responsible for what platform, and have clear policies on what can and can't be done or said while online. Oh, and give your people regular reminders on these guidelines, too.
- Update your digital footprint
If you have no idea what comes up when you google your brand, now is the time to find out. And while you are at it, make sure that your company's sites are optimized and up-to-date. It should be outrightly clear that you are aware of recent events and the way in which they change how we live and work.
It goes without saying that creating a dedicated presence across the social media platforms your customers spend their time is crucial – not just where your marketing team prefers to promote your brand and products. Pay attention, too, to consumer or industry-related forums and review sites. Remember, you can hardly afford to waste time scrambling to set up accounts if something negative is said about your brand – you need to be able to respond quickly.
- Monitor and respond to your reviews
Just because you have a solid online presence doesn't mean that you can finally kick your legs back and relax. Your clients, prospects or anyone remotely interested in your brand could be looking to engage with you online, so you had better monitor your communications with them. Thankfully, there's a whole slew of automated tools that can help you monitor and track social media and online activity.
In responding to reviews, be sure to use facts to back up your response. This is especially useful in those instances when you encounter a troll or someone making false claims against your business. Remember, you should respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative, across the review sites or social media platforms in which you are a member. Most customers today will, after all, almost always check out a product or brand online before making a purchase decision.
- Follow the golden rules when engaging with online feedback
- The first of these is to respond quickly so that you address any issues, challenges, or misconceptions fast before they balloon into huge controversies.
- The second rule is to move the conversation out of the public's eye. Strive to keep your client's information private while simultaneously reducing the chances of having an epic social media escalation by using either direct messaging or emails.
- The third rule is to react reasonably to whatever feedback you get, whether good or bad. No one expects that you will always be in high spirits. But if you come across as angry, aggressive, uncaring, or arrogant, there can be no predicting how many other people will wade into what might have been a small issue and blow it out of proportion. Remember, it's not just about replying to your reviewer, but to everyone who will read that exchange.
- The fourth rule is to know when to apologize. Respond professionally, and in the event that you were at fault, do accept responsibility, apologize, and take corrective steps to make amends. You'll be surprised how humanizing a humble response to criticism can be for your business and brand.
- Content, content, content!
Finally, the most powerful – but most challenging, part of building a digital reputation for many brands is content production. Producing great content can be time-consuming. Worse, an organization's editorial calendar is prone to disruptions or might even be scrapped like when something terrible happens – such as a nasty global pandemic that shuts down all manner of businesses.
Nonetheless, Google and other search engines continue to reward brands that put out fresh and relevant content on an ongoing basis. Weekly posts about issues and insights that are relevant to your clients, peers, and prospects – and which are tweaked for SEO, will give you much more visibility and social proof, thus safeguarding and enhancing your brand's digital reputation in no small manner.